A Guide to Critical Conversations: Expressing your desire to return to work


When it comes to re-entering the workforce, there are certain steps that must be taken no matter what your professional background or personal circumstances. Some are more obvious than others, but when followed as a whole, I find women have a greater chance of success in the short- and long-term.

First and foremost, I always encourage my clients to examine their decision. Take the time necessary to thoroughly think through and articulate your desire to go back to work. Do you have a child going to college and you need to help generate income? Have you discovered an interest or passion through volunteering that you want to explore full time? Do you miss the feeling of accomplishment that comes with closing a big deal? No matter what the reason, understand the motivation behind your decision and what it means to you personally and professionally.

Returning to the paid workforce will be a huge change for you and your family, not just when you start a new position, but also as you navigate the transition. This process takes time, and you will no longer be solely devoted to those who have become accustomed to having your undivided attention. Sit down and talk this through with those closest to you – your spouse, your partner, your children, an aging parent or whoever else might be affected. Be clear about the driving forces behind the decision and why it is important to you and the family. You will need their understanding and support in order to dedicate the time you need to this process and eventually to your new position.

Outside of your immediate family, it may also be important to have conversations with those with whom you are currently volunteering your time. Often when we’re out of the paid workforce, we take on substantial amounts of volunteer work. You may be the PTA President, the fundraising committee chairman, a Deacon at church, a part-time caregiver to neighborhood children or hold any other number of other important roles. And when you’re really good at these things, people often don’t want to let you go! But if you’re really ready to get back to work, it’s important that you evaluate whether these volunteer activities are building a relevant skill set. If not, you may need to step down or decrease your level of involvement. Be open and honest with those you’ve been working with and let them know how meaningful their organization has been to you. Believe me, they will understand.

In stepping away from some of these commitments, you’ll have more time to take on other projects that might better match the skill set you need to succeed professionally. At the same time, you’ll also be enhancing your résumé. If you’re looking for opportunities to volunteer but don’t know where to start, check out sites like,, and They help match volunteer and contract opportunities with people who have a specific skillset.